24 April 2007

Hong Kong Cell Phone Store

No joke. This is how many 'shops' sell their phones.

I Like Rain

Living in Canada growing up I was accustomed to having the odd 'snow day' here or there throughout the winter. I can't remember ever having a 'rain day' though.

Today was my first ever rain day. I was at school for the morning kindergarten session, and the kids left a few minutes early. Then I found out that the afternoon session had been cancelled due to the heavy rain/thunderstorm. Although it was raining pretty heavy (a class Red warning) it didn't seem like anything special. I've driven in much worse many times.

Not one to argue going home early, I quickly packed up my things as I was told I could leave. When I got home it was barely raining, and the warning has been down graded to amber. It has since continued to rain and thunder on and off, but nothing crazy. This is just one more weird story I have now from my teaching here in Hong Kong.

I like rain. It can rain all year if it wants to.

23 April 2007

Pint-Sized Politicians

Even though the tiny 1.5 year olds and 3 year olds can barely stand they have better skills when dealing with each other in a peaceful manner. By the time the students reach 5 years old, they have learned to hit one another. When they get to the P3 level, they are practically trained for war. I say this because my Primary Level 3 class I have today are a bunch of wackos. There is a group of approx. 5 that decline the option to sit for the 1hour long class and torture one another. Sometimes I think they like punching each other in the nose. The worst is that they don't seem to be fighting for any remotely sensible reason. No one stole anyone's candy, no one called someone poopy face, nothing. They just fight.

I try to break it up, but nothing works. It doesn't help that they think I'm funny when I yell at them. I have no control over them. I'm just a clown. But that's why I get paid the big bucks. Clown money, it's good cash...

22 April 2007

Hong Kong Humid Index = 10,000 %

It's humid today.

Mai and I went for a hike with her two co-workers, and I almost melted. I don't feel dehydrated, rather I feel TOO hydrated. And It's only April, not even the rainy season yet. I do however enjoy thunderstorms here, they push out all the bad air and are followed by a day of nice cool dry air. If only they lasted longer.

As for the hike we went to Tai Tam Tuk Resevoir. It's actually not too challenging a hike but the climb takes you up and over the mountains from the North side of HK Island to the South side of HK Island. The scenery is fairly impressive considering HK Island has no scenery to speak of. Almost every view has a building in it, but this hike was fairly isolated.

Back to work tomorrow...

19 April 2007

Sensitivity Slaughtered

My thoughts are with those of the tradgedy from Virginia Tech.

My thoughts, however, are not currently with the insensitive bastards who run CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX and every other American news network.

I woke up Tuesday morning to learn about the VT killings with the headline 'Students Slaughtered!' Yes, it's a very touching tribute of a headline. Simply disgusting in my opinion. If you had just lost a member of your family, no matter how they were killed, would you want to see the event discribed as a 'Slaughter?' CNN doesn't even use such harsh words to describe the events in Iraq. Most of the time all you hear is __ number killed in Iraq scrolling across the bottom ticker in size 2 font. They have also done a very good job of making the whole event into a made for TV movie by constantly calling it a 'Massacre.' Even if it was, not the best choice of words for an 'advanced intellectual' society. Thank God it didn't happen in Texas.

As for the actual event, it boggles my mind how stupidity has once again reigned over safety in another American event. Everyone has asked the question, but how in the world did the University not immediately alert the entire state about the initial 2 killings. The fact it was on a school campus should have sent alarms out to all colleges in the country not just VT. It just makes no sense how a country like the US, constantly 'Living in Fear' as they say, does not have the common sense to alert its people when 2 students are killed. They just let classes continue as normal. The other killings were not only senseless, but avoidable. How can they not get it into their heads that regardless of their international problems, their own nation is even more messed up to a point where things like this happen often. Students were not even given the option to go home. I can only shake my head.

As terrible as it is, I am not surprised in the least. Anyone can buy a gun in the US, and the authorities who control the country are complete idiots. As a teacher in Asia working with many students, I have a slightly different perspective of the events than I did when Columbine happened, and it scares me that things like this still happen. The likelyhood of something like that happening in Hong Kong is very slight, but it still makes me wonder what if? Thankfully the one thing that isn't screwed up about the Hong Kong education system is security. When my students are picked up and dropped off their parents have to present an ID card, and the doors are constantly locked from the inside. It is known at all times who is in the building. To think one security guard posted at the entrance might have saved 32 lives...

Holidays are never long enough.

Yes I just came off of my 11.5 day Easter holiday, but that's still not enough time to remove myself from the fact I still have to teach English. Summer is only what? 3 months away? Let's just say I can't wait to be done with this year. I enjoy a few of my classes, well only one really, and that is the one where I am the only teacher in the room and it's Grade3 students. It gets really annoying having an assistant teacher. At first I thought it might be nice, but now I quite loathe them. They're are nice to talk to and have run errands for me, but when they try to help me teach English it just doesn't work. To teach English would require one to speak it first, but that's just my overall feeling.

What else is new? Yesterday I saw the horizon for the first time since being here. 'Squally Thunderstorms' are quite a nice way to blow away all the crap in the air. I almost felt like I was back home in Canada. That thought was erased when I looked towards China and all you can see is a brown line across the sky. Yuck...

I also encountered my first crazy man on the bus yesterday. Everyone was sitting peacefully on the 2nd level when this man (whom I was sitting beside) answered his cellphone like it was across the city from him. He yelled so loud almost everyone in the bus turned around to look. I wanted to ask what he was saying. The conversation lasted only about 20 seconds, but he must have said at least 3000 words. If only I spoke Cantonese. Also George Lucas(Star Wars) must have spent some time in Hong Kong, because some of the sounds coming out of people's mouths are quite hilarious. I'm not making fun of Cantonese people, just the sound they make. It's not my fault that 4/5 people here are rude, loud, mumbly and generally messy and disrespectful. It's not a stereotype, it's a majority. The other 1/5 are really nice though.

12 April 2007

Bad English in Beijing

This just in from the overly obvious files: Bad English added to list of things Beijing Olympic officials want to ban

My first question after reading this cbc.ca article is how do you 'ban' bad English? China has already proposed deporting foreign workers from the city to make it look cleaner and more cosmopolitan during the Olympics. Whoever thought communism and Olympics would be a good match is an idiot. China is proving very quickly why so many people had good reason to be angered by its selection as host city for the 2008 games. Deport the foreigners (from a multi-nation event), ban bad English (so no-one learns what China really is). Gimme a break. It wouldn't surprise me if they tore down the Great Wall and built a plastic replica to look better. Oh wait! They already have...no joke... Only in certain sections but true. I bet that isn't on the tour.

The story asks how to solve problems like bad Engish signage etc. Hire me! I can spot bad English from a mile away, it's like a game for me here. All they need to do is hire about 10 English people to walk around the city for a week and I'm sure they would correct a lot of the improper spelling. Or they could just tell local Chinese people what a dictionary is.

I for one am in favor of leaving everything as it is. Beijing is already going to appear fake and modified during the games (the amount of money they have put into covering up the reality of China is insane).

I'm eager to see what Brian Williams has to say during his witty 10 minute spurts during CBC's coverage of the games. That's if China doesn't ban foreign media from being sarcastic, which they probably will. My fortune teller skills tell me this games will be remembered as the government controlled no fun games. Winners are not allowed to smile. And they will tax any athlete whose equipment isn't made in China.

09 April 2007

08 April 2007

Big Buddha Day

Yesterday Mai and I travelled to a land far far away, to see the Big Buddha. How big is he? We weren't quite sure, he was covered in mist most of the day. You'll have to Google for an answer as to how big he actually is. It is the largest sitting Buddha in the world apparantly. The Buddha is located close to the Hong Kong Airport, and takes about 2 hours to get there due to large line ups and crazy mountain roads. There is an option to take a SkyRail cable car up the mountain to the Buddha, but we arrived late (would it have mattered?) and the line to go was 3 hours long. By the time 3 hours has passed it would have been almost dark. We elected to take the roller coaster, er um I mean bus up the mountain. I'm very happy to be alive. Normally HK bus drivers are insane, but just wait until you get them on a one lane slippery mountain road with construction and opposing buses the whole way. Yikes...

Once we arrived at Ngong Ping (village atop the mountain), we climed the few hundred steps up to the sitting big guy. Even though we really didn't get a good look at his entirety, it was impressive still. Being close to the airport, I wondered if there was a blinking red light on his head, but that might not appease the gods. I didn't see one anyway. We looked around the top, and soon Mai was frozen. We walked back down.

Being Hong Kong, the government has managed to turn Ngong Ping into Disneyland # 10 in Hong Kong. There's only one official Disney, but it seems everytime something profitable comes along, they have to turn it into a fake cheesy plastic world of 'new' old buildings. The Ngong Ping village is actually only about 2 years old. And it looks rediculous. It's nothing but a big shopping mall full of fake little Buddha statues you can waste tonnes of money on. Personally I'd rather have my photos.

At least there was something genuinely historic on top of the mountain (aside from the Buddha, which actually isn't that historic being only 25 years old approx.) Also on top of the cloudy mountain is the Po Lin Monastery. I have no idea how old it is, but it was the only thing that looked like it had heritalogical importance. (is that a word?)

Inside was a collection of small buildings and gardens with various monks running around. I was glad to see none of them were begging for money, like the fake monks in Mongkok do. As far as I know these monks were real and probably wished that no one was there poking and prodding there big Buddha. All in the name of money, woohoo tourism. I found all the large incense pots pretty self explanatory, but in case you needed some help, the "Beware of Hot Pot" signs were everywhere. I love culture...

03 April 2007

Wild Weekend of Rugby

Among other things...

The Hong Kong Sevens Rugby weekend ended Sunday evening and oh what a weekend it was. The festivites kicked off Friday night and went non-stop until Sunday. It is still unknown how many casualties we (Typhoons) had along the way. I'm glad to say I made it through the weekend un-harmed, and un-fired (more on that later).

I made my way to the stadium late Friday as I had to work, and arrived around 7pm. The fun was just getting started. There was only a small line-up to get into the mayhem that is the 'South Stand,' so I was glad to get into the party zone. You had to be 18 or above to enter the South end of the stadium. This zone puts the Bomber student section to shame. The main thing that stuck out first was all the costumes. I had seen pictures, but some of the things people were wearing were quite shocking. Take the Penguins as an example. It had to be at least 30 degrees in the stands, and these guys wore big thick black penguin costumes. I don't know how they lasted the whole weekend, they must have sweat off at least 30 pounds. Everyone kept well hydrated throughout the tournament, it was common to see fans walking up and down the stairs with 4 jugs of beer at a time.

On Saturday I slept in slightly/was sick/you get the idea. Not only did I miss work in the morning, I also missed a good chunk of the morning games. Oh well, the serious games were on Sunday anyway. Saturday was a very different day in contrast to Friday. Because of the popularity of the South stand, it was full at 11am. I did not get in. Most of my teamates also did not get in, so we actually had to sit and watch rugby. There was a no-alcohol policy in the stands for the rest of the stadium. If you wanted to drink, you had to go under the stands. The stands were pretty empty for some strange reason. So I got to see quite a bit of rugby Saturday, I watched Canada get blown out by Samoa. There were 24 countries in all, but only about 3 had a chance at winning the thing. Fiji, New Zealand, and Samoa were the most impressive. Saturday night was relatively quiet, I decided not to go out as I was a little tired from Friday, and wanted to save my energy for a crazy day on Sunday.

Sunday - We got into the South stands! Mai also came on Sunday, as she didn't want to go to all 3 days. The bad news is that we had to leave at 8am in order to get in on time. The stadium wasn't very full by the time we got there, but a small line to get into the South Stand was forming. It only took a few minutes to get in, so my frustrations from Saturday were gone, as a fun day of partying and sun awaited. Sunday was knockout day in the tournament. Based on where the teams finished the round robin, they were in 1 of 3 competitions. There was the Plate, Bowl, and Cup Finals. The Cup finals were for the best teams. Canada was in the middle level, but we lost our first game against Portugal, by one point! Oh well, they looked hung over and slow so they did well to put up a fight. A few more games past, the beer started to make its way heavily into the stands. It was noon. Mai had seen enough rugby, Japan played as well early on. She decided to go home. Thanks for coming, you didn't look too too bored!

The rest of Sunday was pretty awesome. The rugby was very intense as the semi-finals approached. Fiji vs. New Zealand in the semis for the Cup Final was an absolute thriller. Both teams were extremely fast, and punches were flying from the beginning. Fiji went up a try with only a few minutes left, and looked good for the win. The Kiwis almost pulled out an amazing comeback with a crazy last minute attempt at a try, but were stopped short, the crowd going nuts. Everone said it was the game of the tournament. The Cup Final was almost as good.

The finals featured Samoa vs. Fiji. It still amazes me how fast these guys are. It's insane. Everyone was stunned to see Samoa go out to an early lead 27-0. It made no sense, it was like Fiji lost its will in the match against the Kiwis. After the first half, the score was still 27-0, and it looked like a snoozer. We were all wrong. Fiji put up try after try after try, to make it close at 27-22. It was a complete reversal of the first half. Samoa couldn't do a thing to stop the onslaught. Had Fiji made all extra points, they would be winning by this point. With only seconds left, Fiji had to score or they would lose. The stands were shaking. It was incredible. Fiji made one amazing play to get close to their goal line, but were stopped short, and Samoa kicked it out of bounds to end the game. Wow, great game!

With the final whistle, came the realization that it was now time to go crazy in the South. A half dozen drunks decided to rush the field, some thought it would be a good idea to run over a cop, stupid idea. It was funny to watch, but I think they will regret it later. There were some fireworks, some awards, but mainly everyone just wanted to drink and drink and drink until we got kicked out of the stadium. It really was a pathetic effort on behalf of the HK police attempting to crowd control. The majority of fans were large white drunk rugby men. The majority of HK police are small sober terrified little Chinese men. You guess who won that battle. After a while the crowd came to its senses and dispersed. What a great night!

Update: Pictures here.